Dr Zimmerman’s Tuesday Tip — How the Best Leaders Create Magnetic Workplaces

Everywhere I look I see signs that say such things as “Hiring now” or “Jobs available.” That’s the good news. There are jobs out there.

The bad news is it’s often hard to attract new employees, let alone find and hire people with great talent and character.

It can even be a challenge to pull out the best in the workforce you already have.

So what’s the answer? Creating magnetic workplaces … where people want to come, want to stay, and do indeed give their very best.

And highly effective leaders do exactly that. They create magnetic workplaces.

Of course, I don’t have time here to outline all the strategies that will magnetize your workplace. That’s what my onsite programs are for. But here are three strategies that will get you moving in the right direction.

►1. Exhibit great amounts of positive energy.

A magnetic workplace starts with you, the leader, and not the employees. In other words, you are the standard setter. You will never get your people more energized or more enthusiastic than you are.

The best leaders lead with a positive attitude. Because they know that attitudes are highly contagious. That’s why I often ask my audience members, “If attitudes are contagious, are yours worth catching?” 

If it is, congratulations. And if your attitude is not worth catching, get to work on it. You cannot afford to overlook this critical aspect of leadership.

Richard Lenny, the chairman and CEO of Hershey Foods, even offers a warning. He says, “If you are a pessimist, I can almost guarantee that your workforce will be more pessimistic than you are.”

Of course, some of you may ask, “How I can possibly lead with a positive attitude when times are tough?”

That’s when you follow the advice of another executive, John W. Gardner, who says, “The first and last task of a leader is to keep hope alive.” 

In other words, you don’t pretend everything is okay when it isn’t. But you need to display your own we’re-going-to-get-through-this attitude. It’s a powerful energy that is highly magnetizing that will bring out the best in others.

And then…

► 2. Maintain a visible presence.

We’ve all heard about the need for leaders to walk around their organizations on a regular basis. Sounds simple, but it’s easier said than done.

After all, it’s natural for human beings to want to be around PLU’s … people like us. Employees of one department naturally tend to eat together; senior executives have their retreat centers, and even couples with young children naturally tend to have friends who are at the same place in life.

The trouble with the PLU phenomenon is that it de-magnetizes your workplace. And it creates cliques rather than teams in organizations.

So leaders and managers, quit spending so much time with other leaders and managers and spend more time with the workers who actually get things done.

That’s why chairman and CEO of the Aetna Insurance firm, Ronald Williams, warns, “One of the things we need to guard against in senior executive positions is feeling more comfortable with people who are just like us.”

To maintain a visible presence, you could:

  • Reserve a half hour every day to return calls. Even if it means cutting into your lunch hour. Develop a reputation as someone who always gets back to people right away. It sends the message that you respect others.
  • Create a sense of family in your facility. Host some food-oriented events. Celebrate the good news that takes place in your company and amongst your people. Note the sad events. Let out your sense of humor. And of course, show up for all these events and mingle with people.
  • Remember the anchor people. Don’t forget the low-level manager who helped you so much as you were first starting out. Remember the team of employees who worked so hard on the project that gave you so much praise. Go back and visit them. Take them out to lunch. Share your appreciation. And point out their strengths.
  • Eliminate the “executive suite” mystique. When Gordon Bethune became the CEO of a major airline, they were on the verge of bankruptcy. But as he documents in his book, they went “from worst to first” by using the visibility principle. He installed a toll-free, voice-mail number for all workers to call him. And Bethune returned all calls.

He even hosted open houses — with food and drinks — on the executive floor for all employees at month’s end. He conducted tours of the executive offices, answered all employee questions, and encouraged them to sit at his desk. And because all employees attended, they could chat with managers they might not otherwise see.

And in your quest to be a leader that magnetizes your workplace…

► 3. Ask a lot of questions and really really listen.

There are few things more invigorating than to have someone else show interest in us — a real, true, sincere interest. And good questions do that … questions that go below the surface and actually build work relationships.

That’s why I wrote the book on Brave Questions: Building Stronger Relationships by Asking All the Right Questions. Brave Questions turn a group into a team and a household into a family.

To get your copy, go to…

For starters, you could ask Brave Questions such as these:

  • What would you like to achieve?
  • What’s getting in the way of achieving your goals?
  • How do you plan on overcoming those obstacles?
  • What was a time in your life when you were performing at your peak and felt totally excited, satisfied, and proud?
  • What activities could you do for hours and never get bored or lose your energy?
  • What are your unique strengths? How do you use them?

And then after you ask some Brave Questions, to make sure it’s an energizing, magnetizing experience, you’ve got to listen to their answers with your best listening skills. The most effective leaders do that. They’re what you call “big people.” As motivational author David J. Schwartz says, “Big people monopolize the listening. Small people monopolize the talking.”

Use these three strategies more often and you will create a magnetic workplace.